Not all customer reviews published on the internet are real. According to a study by Reputation X, as many as one in five online customer reviews are fake. In other words, they are created by users who haven’t purchased the products or services from the business which they are reviewing.
As a business owner, you should be conscious of whether its online customer reviews are real or fake. Fake reviews are created with malicious intent. Users don’t create them to help your business; they create them to harm your business’s reputation. A fake review may talk poorly about your business, and when combined with a one-star rating, other users may have a more negative perception of your business. Fortunately, you can prevent fake online customer reviews from ruining your business’s reputation by tackling them head-on.
Identify Fake Reviews
To prevent fake reviews from ruining your business’s reputation, you must first identify them. Don’t assume a review is fake just because it’s negative. While most fake reviews are, in fact, negative, real reviews can be negative as well.
Common signs of a fake review include:
- Mentions a product or sold not sold by your business
- User’s name doesn’t match up with your business’s customer records
- Talks about an encounter with a manager or employee that didn’t happen
- Addresses your business by the wrong name
- Includes the wrong address or location for your business
- One-star rating with little or no text
- Explicitly recommends a competitor’s product or service
- No other reviews posted under the same account
- No profile photo
Craft a Polite Response
Even if you believe a review is fake, you should still respond to it. Responding gives you an opportunity to address it publicly. If a user mentions a product or sold that’s not sold by your business, for instance, craft a polite response explaining the situation. You can begin by apologizing to the user for his or her negative experience, after which you can let the user know that your business doesn’t sell that product or service.
You should always respond to reviews, regardless of whether they are real or fake. Only responding to real reviews can lead users to believe that the concerns or problems described in fake reviews are justified and unaddressed.
Flag for Deletion
While responding to fake reviews can mitigate their impact on your business’s reputation, you should ultimately try to get them deleted. Most business review websites prohibit users from creating fake reviews. If you’re confident a review is fake, you can flag it on the review website for deletion. The review website will then investigate the review. If they determine it to be fake, they’ll delete it. In some cases, they may also terminate the account of the user who created the fake review.
Google requires its Maps users to post reviews based on real experiences. As detailed in its Maps User Contributed Content Policy at support.google.com/contributionpolicy/answer/7422880, fake content is a violation of its policy. Google encourages businesses, as well as other users, to flag reviews.
You can flag a fake review on Google Maps from within your business’s Google My Business account. After locating the review in your account, click the menu button in the upper-right corner and select “Flag as inappropriate.”
On Yelp you can flag a fake review by pulling it up in your account, clicking the menu button and selecting “Report Review.” Other review websites have a similar process for flagging fake reviews. Just locate the review in your account and search for an option to flag or report it. The review website may request additional information. Nonetheless, if a review is obviously fake and you have sufficient evidence to prove it, the website should delete it.
Cultivate More Positive Reviews
You may not be able to get all of your business’s fake reviews deleted. By cultivating more positive reviews, however, you can dilute them. Positive reviews from real customers will drown out your business’s fake and negative reviews. The fake reviews may stay online, but most users will overlook them if your business has a greater number of real and positive reviews.
To cultivate more positive reviews, focus on improving your business’s customer service. When customers have a positive experience dealing with your business, they may want to talk about it in a review. If they have a mediocre experience, on the other hand, they probably won’t leave a review at all. You want to go above the expectations of your business’s customers to encourage them to leave a positive review.
You can also customers to review your business online. None of the major review websites prohibit review solicitation. Most of them actually encourage businesses to ask their customers for a review, as long as it’s done in an unbiased way.
Although you can ask customers for reviews, you can’t reward them for doing so. Giving a customer a free product or discount is a form of incentivization. A reward gives customers an unfair incentive to leave a positive review, so review websites don’t allow it. If a review website discovers a business is rewarding customers for reviews, it may remove them from the platform. Asking for reviews is allowed, but you can’t incentivize them.
Consider Reputation Management
Partnering with a reputation management company can protect your business from fake reviews. Reputation management companies know how to deal with negative reviews, including fake reviews. They can help you craft polite and professional responses, and they can even flag fake reviews on your business’s behalf.
If your business only has a few fake reviews, it may not require the services of a reputation management company. If your business is the ongoing target of a fake review scheme, on the other hand, a reputation management company can prove useful.
Fake reviews are destructive to your business’s reputation. They create a negative impression upon users that discourages them from engaging with your business. By responding to and flagging fake reviews, as well as cultivating more positive reviews, you can preserve your business’s reputation.